The former “Saturday Night Live” co-stars play a set of twins trying to settle their differences, as well as their own personal problems, after a decade apart. Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson and Boyd Holbrook also have roles in co-writer and director Craig Johnson’s comedic drama, which is currently sitting pretty on Rotten Tomatoes with an 86 percent approval rating from a total of 37 critics.
TheWrap‘s chief film critic Alonso Duralde was an early fan of Wiig and Hader’s chemistry when “The Skeleton Twins” premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.
“The hilarious scene in which Milo (Hader) cajoles Maggie (Wiig) into joining him in lip-synching ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ was one of the festival’s most talked-about moments,” Duralde wrote in his review. “Johnson may go to ouchier places than previous Sundance crossover hits like ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ but ‘The Skeleton Twins’ promises to be an audience-pleaser nonetheless.”
A.V. Club critic A.A. Dowd also mentioned that “truly memorable” scene in a review raving about the movie’s stars — even if he couldn’t do the same for the overall production.
“What saves the movie is its actors: Exploiting audience’s memories of their previous collaborations, Hader and Wiig really do seem related. And both actors handle the balance between drama and comedy with aplomb,” Dowd wrote. “Whenever they’re on-screen together, huffing gas in a dentist’s office or bickering in the streets, ‘The Skeleton Twins’ comes to life. If only they had a more distinctive, less programmatic platform for their chemistry.”
Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty also had problems with the big picture, thanks to story beats that “feel as programmed as the outline of a screenwriting manual,” but praised its stars.
“The two costars elevate the film beyond formula. Their onscreen rapport is infectious and believable,” Nashawaty wrote. “Hader, though, is the film’s real surprise. It would have been easy for him to turn Milo into a gay cartoon like his after-hours alter ego Stefon. But he resists the temptation to go for easy laughs and broad strokes and delivers something darker and deeper. It’s a shockingly vulnerable performance, one of the best I’ve seen all year.”
Despite a Best Screenwriting prize at Sundance, Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir wasn’t all that impressed by it, but joined the chorus praising Wiig and Hader.
“Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson’s script for ‘Skeleton Twins’ won the screenwriting prize at Sundance this year. What that means in English is that it follows a highly familiar indie-film template: the three-act family dramedy, ending with some degree of renewal and redemption,” O’Hehir wrote. “Ultimately this is more like a movie than a story about real life, but at least it’s a movie delivered with considerable compassion, delicacy and wit, built around unforgettable performances by two youngish actors whose dramatic upside is almost unlimited.”
Metro critic Matt Prigge is among the minority who did not forgive the movie for its flaws, even if its included “fine performances” from its stars.
“A joke-less, sarcasm-free version of ‘The Skeleton Twins’ might be too much of a downer. But the one with jokes and sarcasm too often seems like it’s unwilling to go down the rabbit holes it itself has dug. Or perhaps it just needs better jokes and sarcasm,” Prigge wrote. “An attempted heartwarming ending — if one that ignores the considerable wreckage its heroes have left in their wake — confirms its shallowness. Worst of all, it stupidly ruins a perfectly decent ‘Marley & Me’ joke.”